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One of my new heroes, the Forest Man, Jadav Payeng

One of my new heroes, the Forest Man, Jadav Payeng

In the North East of India, lies the largest inland island in the world, Majuli Island, which is home to over 150,000 people.

Mainly due to significant deforestation, the annual monsoon floods have eroded away much of the island, causing massive damage to the area.

Starting as a 16 year old in 1979, Jadav Payeng, set about reversing this issue and started to plant seeds along the sandy, barren coast of the island.

Over the next 30 years, Jadav planted 1,360 acres of trees, creating a marvellous forest larger than New York’s Central Park!

What caused him to take such massive action?

In his own words, “The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover.  I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms.  It was carnage.  I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it.  There was nobody to help me.  Nobody was interested.”

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The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70's

The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70’s

The Richmond Football Club and AFL community lost a legend this week with the sad passing of the seemingly indestructible Tommy Hafey.

“T-shirt” Tommy as he was affectionately known was a remarkably successful coach who was renowned for not only creating better sporting teams, but for positively influencing people on and off the field.

As a coach, he took an interest in every player on his list, from the superstars to the fresh-faced rookies and found a way to inspire them to reach their full potential as athletes and citizens.

He was an amazing leader and one of his greatest legacies is that 18 of his ex-players went on to become senior coaches in their own right.

His personal creed was Desire plus Dedication plus Discipline plus Determination equals your Destination” and he lived this out for his entire life.

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Denis Istomin

Denis Istomin

I was watching the Australian Open during the week and caught some of 3-time champion Novak Djokovic’s third round match.

However, as the match went on, I became more fascinated by the back story of his opponent, little known Uzbek, 27 year-old Denis Istomin.

When he was 14, Istomin was in a horrific car accident on the way to a junior tournament, resulting in a severely broken leg.  After 80 stitches and three and a half months in hospital, doctors said that he would never hold a tennis racquet again.

Normally, that would result in the end of someone’s professional tennis aspirations, but not for Denis.

This is where his mother, Klaudiya, enters the story.

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Dashrath Manjhi was, in many ways, a very unassuming man.

A poor labourer from the Bihar region of India, tragedy struck when his wife died due to a lack of medical treatment.  Between his town and the nearest doctor was a mountain that made the trip 70 kilometres long and she was unable to receive necessary treatment for an accident before succumbing to her injuries.

Broken-hearted, but determined not to allow others from his village suffer the same fate, Dashrath spent the next 22 years of his life on a single-minded purpose.

Armed with a hammer, chisel, shovel and wheelbarrow, he worked day and night to single-handedly carve a 360 foot road through the mountain that could be accessed by bicycle and motorbike, dramatically increasing access to schools, markets and medical facilities for his village and 60 others.

What an extraordinary achievement!

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The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwel...

The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, depicting Bridges as she goes to school (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the segregation of schools ended in the early 1960’s, a single 6-year-old girl, Ruby Bridges, was chosen to be the first black girl to attend a previously all-white elementary school in New Orleans.

Her attendance was met with vitriol and an unbelievable amount of hatred by locals who paraded in front of the school with placards, yelling and screaming at this delightful little girl.  One woman had a black doll that she had made a coffin for, which she would taunt little Ruby with.  Another protester threatened to poison her, a threat that was taken so seriously that she was ordered to only eat food that she had brought from home.

The protests were so extreme that Federal Marshalls were required to escort her to and from the school and to add fuel to the fire, only one teacher at the school was willing to have her in class.

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Today is Anzac Day in Australia.

It’s a significant day on our calendar as it commemorates the remarkable contribution that our servicemen and women have made to the freedom that we experience in this great country.

Since the original Anzac Day in 1915, when soldiers from Australia and New Zealand stormed the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey, we have been blessed by thousands of heroic men and women who have given their lives or been severely injured as they served their country.

I recently came across the story of Private Liam Haven, a remarkable young man who served in East Timor and Iraq.

Returning from a routine patrol in 2008, he was hit by shrapnel from an improvised explosive device.  At first, he thought that he was fine and had dust and sweat in his eyes.

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Alexander Graham Bell's Large Box Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell’s Large Box Telephone (Photo credit: national museum of american history)

Recently, the 40 year anniversary of the mobile phone was commemorated.

It’s extraordinary to think how much our lives have been impacted by such a remarkable invention, and with over 6 billion active mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, the innovation continues.

Recently, my oldest son Hayden, brought home from school a book that was based on the life of Alexander Graham Bell who is the inventor of the original telephone in 1876.  He was a remarkable person and reading about him reminded me of a few great principles that I would like to share with you today.

Here’s what inspires me about Alexander Graham Bell:

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Adrian PetersonOn December 24, 2011, Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson ruptured the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee.

It was a shocking injury that ended his season and normally results in a significant recovery time of over a year.

World-renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews said of such injuries that, “The average NFL player … only about a little over 50 percent are still playing after two years.”

Adrian Peterson didn’t just come back within 8 months, he was a popular and worthy winner of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2012 season after falling just 9 yards short of breaking the NFL all-time rushing record.

How did he make such a remarkable comeback and why is he such an inspiration?

Peterson himself humbly suggests that genetics played a big part and that may be true to an extent, but I suspect that there was more to it than that.

Here are a few things that we can all learn from such a tremendous athlete, especially if you have ever suffered a setback in life:

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English: Elmer (the Flying Monk) of Malmesbury

Eilmer of Malmesbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before Felix Baumgartner amazed us with his extraordinary leap from the edge of space in 2012.

Before Neil Armstrong captivated the world with his first steps on the moon in 1969.

Before the dashing Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith made the first trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Australia in 1928.

Before the Wright brothers did the seemingly impossible and made fixed-wing flight a reality in 1903.

There was an obscure English Benedictine monk living in the 11th century named Eilmer of Malmesbury.

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Hayden on his third birthday with his grandad, John “Jack” Henderson

Over the past couple of years I’ve written about many inspirational people from history and famous individuals who are still alive, but I’m unlikely to ever meet.

But today, I want to focus on someone I’ve been very close to who has been an inspiration to me personally.

John “Jack” Henderson was born in Glasgow, Scotland during the second World War.  The youngest of 10 children, his father passed away when he was just 3 weeks old.  As a result, his mother was forced to work to provide for the family, leaving his older sisters to raise him from a very young age.

After leaving school in his early teens, he worked as a television repairman.  It was a strange role for Jack as he was probably the least handy man I’ve ever met, although it did start a lifetime love of television.

At the age of 17, Jack left Scotland for London to enrol in the Salvation Army Training College for Officers.  He struggled to read or write, making college a challenge.  Out of hundreds of cadets, Jack was one of three in the literacy remedial class.  However, he didn’t let it stop him from completing his training and starting his career with the Salvation Army in their Social Work area.  Remarkably, Jack went on to complete his Masters Degree in Social Work and later became a university lecturer back in Scotland. Not bad for an illiterate TV repairman.

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